UK Government slammed over ‘farcical and chaotic’ exit from COP28
Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
MSs have criticised the “farcical and chaotic’ UK Government after its representative returned home from COP28 early, leaving Wales with no voice at the crunch climate change talks.
Julie James told the Senedd that Graham Stuart was ordered by No 10 to return home just as the climate talks in Dubai reached crisis point.
Wales’ climate change minister said her Westminster counterpart was told to return to help the prime minister see off a Conservative rebellion over his Rwanda bill.
Ms James said: “The minister who’s actually got a seat at the table at COP28 from the UK Government has been summoned home to vote in your ridiculous Rwanda nonsense.”
Responding to questions from a Conservative MS, she said the decision shows how much importance the UK Government puts on the existential climate crisis.
Janet Finch-Saunders, for the Conservatives, questioned why Ms James did not attend COP28 herself.
Plaid Cymru’s Llŷr Gruffydd, who chairs the Senedd climate committee, said Mr Stuart left civil servants to complete negotiations at a fraught moment.
He told the chamber: “He’s returning, of course, to try to bail out Rishi Sunak and the UK Government, and it’s clearly a farcical and chaotic set of circumstances.
“It’s a dereliction of the UK Government’s international responsibilities.
“And, of course, the UK Government Minister is Wales’ voice in these discussions but now, obviously, we’re no longer properly there to be heard in these negotiations.”
Mr Gruffydd said Wales should be represented in its own right in future.
After voting, Mr Stuart was ordered to return to Dubai, completing a 6,800-mile round trip.
As the world awaits the outcome of COP28, Ms James updated the Senedd – which was the world’s first parliament to declare a climate emergency – on Wales’ progress.
In a statement on Tuesday December 12, the minister highlighted the Welsh Government’s response to the Climate Change Committee’s progress report on reducing emissions.
Ms James said: “COP28, which is due to close in Dubai, illustrates the global challenges.
“There are energy security issues, economic headwinds, political obstacles and much more to navigate. Wales, though a small nation, continues to play its part on that world stage.”
She raised a consultation on a “just transition” framework which aims to ensure equality and fairness are part of plans to achieve a net-zero Wales by 2050.
Janet Finch-Saunders raised concerns about “offshoring” responsibility to other countries.
“Offsetting footprints to other nations is not a just transition,” she said.
Ms Finch-Saunders argued Wales’ net-zero targets are fundamentally flawed because they do not take into account emissions of imported goods.
The shadow minister criticised the closure of the Ffos-y fran opencast mine, saying it produced two-thirds of the UK’s coal which will now have to be imported.
She said plans to increase tree planting cannot come at the expense of farmers.
Delyth Jewell, for Plaid Cymru, urged the Welsh Government to achieve net zero by 2035, with Ms James saying a working group is looking at the tighter target.
Ms Jewell accused Westminster of undermining net zero with empty rhetoric and watered down climate commitments.
Ms James criticised the UK Government for continuing to explore for fossil fuels and opening new mines, which she described as pathetic and nonsensical.
She welcomed the Crown Estate’s announcement on offshore wind in the Celtic Sea, with the first minister set to attend a meeting on Monday.
She said: “We hope that that means that that’s enough of a pipeline to unlock the investments in Welsh ports and in the steel industry itself to make Tata itself invest.”
Ms James received cards, with climate change messages inside, made at a children’s event in north Wales from her Labour colleague Carolyn Thomas.
She said: “The one that most struck me was one from a 10-year-old that said, ‘Dear Minister, please go faster’.
“Really, that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? ‘For God’s sake, get on with it’, you know, ‘Hurry up’.”
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